Today, our 170th day on the road, we’re exactly halfway through our planned trip. We can’t believe it’s already half over, nor that we still have a full 170 days to go! For those of you who missed the first Nerd Time post, we have been collecting data every day to be able to analyze how the trip is going. Soon, I’ll do a more detailed crunching of the numbers on our time in Asia but I still wanted to check-in now that we’re at the midpoint.
While we’ve been collecting a lot of data, unfortunately it is not comprehensive. There are experiences and feelings that I think are interesting or important that I just didn’t properly capture in my data collection instruments.
For example, I neglected to include a score for homesickness. Yet, since we got to Southeast Asia, I’ve noticed feeling more homesick. I don’t have data to back it up but it’s how I feel. Maybe it’s not speaking or reading the language, maybe it’s spending more time without amenities like hot water, maybe it’s having poor internet connections so it’s harder to stay in touch with people back at home, or maybe it’s just that the longer your gone the more you miss home. Still, I definitely feel an increase.
The other aspect I hadn’t anticipated is that I’m starting to get a little tired of planning more travel. Before the trip, planning was a nice bit of escapism from our day-to-day lives; now it’s a bit of a slog. At this point, we have reserved accommodations (mostly with free cancellation) all the way through to the end of our time in Italy in May. Every place we are, we are planning what to do there but also making sure we have our transportation for the next location squared away and accommodations for as far as 2-3 months in the future set. Once we’ve finally booked the last of our accommodations, it’s going to be really nice to stop planning quite so much beyond the day to day.
The data we’ve collected (and our Instagram) also doesn’t fully capture the less glamorous parts of traveling.
For example, I’m tired of washing clothes by hand. We packed light for the trip. A backpack can only hold so many outfits and it means we have to do laundry regularly. Washing machines are few and far between and I have a new and deep appreciation for their magical existence. We felt good about our purchase of a travel washing “machine” (i.e. bag) to make our lives easier. It does make loads a little easier but you can only wash 2 shirts and a handful of underwear in each load. Each load requires you to fill the bag with water, then soap, massage it around agressively, empty the water, fill it with water again, massage it around agressively, and sometimes repeat the rinsing again. If we’ve been bad and left laundry for too long, we may have to do this 3-4 times over. Sounds fun right?
Then comes the drying. We have yet to come across a dryer, and most of our travel clothes can’t be put in one anyway. So, we string up our clothes, sometimes outside, sometimes in the bathroom, sometimes in the living room. Some places they dry overnight but others it takes two days.
And if you ever want to feel humble or maybe a little stupid, travel can definitely help with that. For example, there were the times when I couldn’t speak Portuguese and instead resorted to German by accident. Or there was the time that a waitress, before we even opened the door to an empanada restaurant in Buenos Aires, identified us as tourists and started speaking English to us. Then when she brought us our delicious smelling tomales, she was nice enough to explain to us that we were not supposed to eat the husks around the tomales but open it up and eat the inside. Or there is the time a Thai boat driver was just trying to get me to move to the other side of the boat but I didn’t understand and tried to help pull in the bike tire he was using as a bumper only to dump water all over myself and the backpacks in the boat and then to find that I was still in his way.
There is also the wide variety of places we’ve stayed. We’ve stayed in some wonderful apartments and even one night at a very fancy hotel in Buenos Aires. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve stayed in some very basic accommodations, some didn’t have hot water, some were tiny, some the bathrooms were pretty terrible including having cockroach-like bugs, mosquitos, ants, and a frog keeping you company while you shower.
Our nicest hotel room of the trip and the worst bathroom (you can't see all the bugs or the lack of hot water).
The least glamorous part of travel so far has definitely been getting sick. There is nothing quite so miserable as vomiting in an unfamiliar bathroom and then having to sit on a bus popping Pepto to keep it together. It hasn’t happened that often (Nate and I have each spent 17 days out of 170 sick, though not the same days) but 10 percent of the time feels like a lot while you’re living it. With India and the infamous tales of “Dehli Belly” still ahead of us, we have no aspirations of making it without more days spent sick and miserable, but it comes as part of the package of world travel.
Just one of our many walks.
Now that I’ve added a little extra color, back to the data…
So far we’ve gone a long way. To be exact, we’ve:
While we’ve used a lot of transportation, I’m particularly excited about the number of miles we’ve walked. That’s 5.9 miles per day on average, not eliminating days spent on planes or on trains when we don’t have a chance to add miles. We walk a lot and it’s been a great and inexpensive way to experience places.
So far, we have spent 46 percent of our what we budgeted to spend while on the trip. We’ve also been able to rack up almost $1,700 in savings compared to our budget so far, which will help make our time in more expensive countries a little easier.
With Europe and Japan, with their much higher costs, still to come; I was a little worried when I saw that we had already spent almost half of our budget. Some of this can be explained by the much more robust “special treats” budget we had for the first portion of our trip to accomodate things like diving at the Great Barrier Reef, visiting Machu Picchu, wine tasting (which was originally cage diving with sharks) in South Africa, and my silent meditation retreat. For the second half of our trip, the only things we budgeted specially for are our trip to Petra in Jordan and some of the more expensive museums in Europe. So, while we are in Japan and Europe we’ll be working from a much smaller entertainment budget.
So far, having our fairly detailed budget document and tracking our costs has been really helpful (though it may sound like a nightmare to some people). Any time we are thinking about doing something a little more expensive, whether doing an extra dive or splurging on another whole fish dinner, we can input that cost into our budget and see if it can work. Sometimes, it means spending a little less each day in a place going forward and other times it takes us way over budget would leave us with nothing for the rest of our time in a place. Knowing which category any given activity falls into means we can make the decision easily and know what the implications are. It’s taken a lot of potential for stress out of our decision making.
We’ve had some amazing food while we’ve been traveling, a lot of it things we’d never had before.
Our most expensive meals were (1) our Rio Food Tour; (2) Dinner on the beach of Ilha Grande at Lua e Mar; (3) Ceviche dinner on Easter Island; and (4) Dinner at Parilla Pena in Buenos Aires. The food tour, dinner on Ilha Grande, and at Parilla Pena are experiences we regularly still look back on and I believe were worth every penny. The ceviche dinner on Easter Island was good but wasn’t particularly memorable and was mostly just expensive because cost on the island in general were so high.
I can’t talk about food without mentioning Vietnam. I’m obsessed with the food in Vietnam now. I thought Thailand would be the big winner for me because of my love of Pad Thai back home but Vietnam and its cheap, accessible street food blew Thailand away.
It didn’t make the list of most expensive dinners because everything was so affordable but that just made it better. There hasn’t been another place where I’ve enjoyed such a variety of food so much and I can’t wait to add in some of the things I loved the most to my cooking once I’m back home.
On average we’ve spent about 15 USD for dinners we’ve had out, including meals that cost as little as 5 USD for the two of us (mostly in Myanmar and Vietnam). We’ve also spent almost 800 USD on groceries on the trip so far, not including snacks from convenience stores, etc.
Buying groceries and cooking definitely stretched our budget further and made us feel more at home. Unfortunately, in the two months since we got to Asia we’ve been staying in hotels and guesthouses and so we haven’t been able to cook. Luckily, the cost of food is comparatively low but we’re looking forward to our time in Japan and Europe when we’ll be staying in Airbnbs again and can cook our own food.
For both Nate and I, our least happy days (a score of just 3) happened to be days we were sick and yet had to spend the day on a bus. Nate’s was in Peru between Puno and Cusco. Mine was in Chile between Valparaiso and Santiago. Turns out being sick while having to travel is pretty much the worst.
Interestingly, Nate’s happiness since we’ve been in Asia has been much more consistent than mine. I have more highs and lows, possibly because I’ve gotten sick and at least one trough and peak at my silent meditation retreat. In general, we’ve just been pretty happy the whole trip mostly averaging a 7-8 out of 10 for each city we visit. While it hasn’t been perfect 10s everyday, or even close to that, we’ve been really lucky not to have any big problems come up to derail our travel and we haven’t gotten sick of each other yet either.
Overall, this trip has made me really grateful (maybe it’s just residual from my meditation retreat) for the chance to take this trip but also all the amazing people that make the effort to stay in touch with us and miss us while we are gone. We are only halfway finished and we have so many amazing places left to visit but I can’t wait to be back where I can see and talk to the people I care about regularly again.